Webster University is challenging the University of Missouri's hegemony in sports and outdoor advertising with an attention-grabbing billboard.
MU dominates the signage along I-70 from Columbia to St. Louis with six billboards spelling out the school's nickname -- M-I-Z-Z-O-U -- and Webster is fighting back with a sign that's part-recruiting tactic, part-PR ploy and part-joke.
"Our top recruits are chess players," reads the school's billboard, now up on the same stretch of road highway that connects two of Missouri's largest universities.
John Costello, Webster's director of creative services, hopes some drivers will have a little laugh at the juxtaposition of Webster's and MU's billboards while others consider seriously if a smaller university with a winning chess team is the best school for them.
"Everyone is familiar with that gauntlet of Mizzou billboards, that's the whole reson to do it," Costello says. "We went into it thinking, how do we stand out in a sea of sameness? It was a unique opportunity to have a little bit of a sense of humor and set ourselves apart from an SEC football powerhouse."
And for something that cost just a fraction of the school's advertising budget, the billboard is a serious success, says Patrick Giblin, director of public relations.
"The billboard has done what it is supposed to do: people are talking about Webster now," Giblin says. "Webster University is not Mizzou...and I think that's part of the humor here."
See reactions from Webster student athletes and from MU after the jump.
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